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The Diary of a Young Girl

by Anne Frank

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Critical Evaluation

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The Diary of a Young Girl chronicles the coming of age of a sensitive and highly talented Jewish teenager named Anne Frank. At the time she made her first entries into her now-famous diary, she was pampered and immature. Former American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in her introduction to the book’s first edition in English, comments on the diary’s remarkable veracity, noting that a writer as young as Frank could be counted on to write truthfully.

Roosevelt, too, contends that the greatest evil of the Holocaust and the war that it had spawned was the degradation of the human spirit. Frank is not oblivious to this degradation, but she is somehow able to distance herself from it. With her life in danger every day, she still looks ahead optimistically. She fantasizes about what she and those sequestered with her—her mother, father, and sister, and four others—will do when their exile ends.

The diary essentially falls into two portions, the first year and the second year of Anne’s confinement in the Secret Annex. In the course of the consecutive entries in the diary, Anne develops from a bright but somewhat spoiled young girl into a mature person whose psychological insights are impressively keen. Although she sometimes shows her annoyance at the people with whom she is hiding, she reveals no hatred for the Nazi oppressors who are out to annihilate all European Jews (and who, ultimately, kill two-thirds of the world’s Jewish population). She realizes that she may be caught up in the net of anti-Semitism that pervades much of Europe, but she does not permit herself to dwell on this threat.

After their arrest on August 4, 1944, the eight people who had been in hiding for more than two years in the Secret Annex were transported to the Westerbork transit camp, then to Auschwitz. Later, Anne and her sister, Margot, were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Both of them died at the camp in March, 1945, just one month before Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British forces. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived. He returned to Amsterdam, found that his daughter’s writings had been saved, and became instrumental in the publication of Anne’s diary.

The Diary of a Young Girl has been translated into more foreign languages than any other book written in the twentieth century. It has been adapted for film and stage, and its influence remains enormous.

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Critical Context